Be warned, this post comes with some graphic content and, ultimately, a relegation from the Scottish Premiership. The 2015/16 campaign was for many United fans the worst in the club’s history. Terrible decision-making by the board and the managers in charge led to a disaster of a season. We saw mercenaries, mayhem and millions down the drain. It may never be known exactly how much money we spent on players, payoffs and outrageous wages but it was a year that we all want to forget and one that we are still recovering from.
Settle in, because this is going to be a fairly lengthy post given the vast turnover in players (many of whom were on spectacularly large contracts).
As with all of these articles this will be a list of players who left United during, or at the end of, the 2015/16 season. For anyone reading a post like this for the first time please have a read of the 2016/17 version (here) and the 2017/18 version (here).
Ready? Here we go…
When is a 72 times capped goalkeeper and World Cup veteran rubbish? When he is Eiji Kawashima. Probably his greatest contribution to United is the few mentions we had on TV this summer during the World Cup as he continued to be Japan’s first choice goalkeeper despite being pretty awful.
I think it was the November that we announced a move for Kawashima but due to red tape and endless delays it was January before we actually got to see him. His stint at United got off to a terrible start and he was culpable in the defeat against Dundee on his debut. The long process in getting him signed was no good for anyone and it was yet another embarrassing episode for United in this horrible, horrible season.
It is maybe best we don’t talk about how much money he was probably earning when he was at Tannadice but like many on this list it would have been thousands upon thousands a week.
Since leaving United he has been in French football and played in this summer’s World Cup for a very impressive Japanese team. He was initially with Metz but is now at RC Strasbourg who play in the French top-flight (he is not their first choice goalkeeper).
The curious case of John Souttar. He broke into the United first team at the same time as Ryan Gauld and it was always obvious that he had a great deal of natural talent and it is difficult to sum up Souttar’s time at Tannadice because fans disagree about what exactly went wrong for the young defender. Many were also quite glad when he left given his form and perceived attitude issues. My own view is that he did display great potential but he was badly mismanaged and suffered from poor coaching at the hands of McNamara and Donnelly (there were many rumours at the time of the Souttar family being quite angry towards the club as to how they were coaching both John and Harry).
Undoubtedly he did make mistakes and was guilty of giving off the impression that he had thrown in the towel but my personal opinion is that he was the victim of United and the problems at the club rather than it being his own fault. Given how much he has improved under Craig Levein it maybe does point to this. Indeed Levein has been pretty vocal about United nearly “wrecking” Souttar’s career.
Souttar has recently been involved in the Scotland squad but is currently out of the Hearts team with a long-term injury.
An almost seemingly permanently injured defender, Morris was actually okay for us but maybe that was in relation to others around him. On his day he was a decent enough player but his injury troubles always meant he never really felt like an established first-team regular and this was especially true in the 2015/16 season.
Morris left at the end of his contract and it surprised everyone when he then signed for Aberdeen. He made a grand total of zero appearances for the Dons and was then released before moving to Dunfermline.
After a very good season in Fife we were heavily linked with a move for him this summer but he headed north to join Ross County.
One half of the ‘Pates and Ranks’ midfield duo, the limited but committed midfielder played at Tannadice for three years. Initially he complimented Jackie McNamara’s gung-ho system and he provided great cover for the attacking players in-front of him. His form in this early spell at the club was always pretty good but once things started to turn sour his limitations were badly exposed.
Nobody could have ever questioned Paton’s commitment to Tannadice and he always spoke very fondly of the club but the honest truth is that he was not a great player and had the most bizarre turning circle of any player I’ve ever seen. His left leg was only for standing on and if the ball appeared on his left side he had to do a 27 point turn in order to get the ball out from under his right foot.
A player who was again briefly linked with us in July but that was possibly more fan power than anything else. He signed for Falkirk at the start of the season and has been very poor for them if their fans are to be believed.
We all know that everyone prefers Dec to Ant and for me the same might be true of Rankin over Paton. I always thought Rankin was a better footballer than Paton, although he suffered from many of the same limitations. Much like Paton, Rankin always spoke very positively about United and has mentioned on several occasions since leaving that his children are still very much supporters of the club. It is more difficult to criticise people who always handled themselves professionally and positively but in the same vein as Paton it was in the 2015/16 that we saw the deterioration of John Rankin and he was yet another member of the squad who could have probably left at the end of the 2014/15 season with his reputation intact. I think most United fans have a great respect for Rankin the person but maybe like Sean Dillon it was the last period of time on the footballing side of things that damaged a bit of that.
Involved heavily in football based charities and organisations, Rankin has hinted at a possible future return to Tannadice in some capacity but at the moment he is still playing and has this season joined his hometown team Clyde.
The worst/most bizarre signing in United’s recent history? We’ve had some crackers but the brother of Dutch footballing legend Wesley Sneijder is certainly up there. We handed Sneijder a two-year contract that I’m assuming was worth more than a few bob but in a matter of weeks he was out of the club “recovering” in a facility back in the Netherlands.
A lover of holidays to Ibiza and the owner of his own clothing brand (10official) he made a fleeting showing in just one substitute appearance for the club. I can proudly say I was there.
Rodney did recover from whatever issue he had and is now playing for Dutch sixth tier side DHSC Utrecht.
A desperation signing to appease the United fans after the club sold Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven. Robbie Muirhead was bought at the very last-minute and his signing was YET ANOTHER huge mistake from the club and from manager Jackie McNamara. We forked out £150,000 plus a three and half year contract on Muirhead. Astonishing stuff.
We released Muirhead from his contract after just 16 months. Hearts then tried to make something of him but he failed to make an impact at Tyencastle so he tried his luck in England with MK Dons under Robbie Neilson. Back in Scotland with Dunfermline Athletic, he has hardly kicked a ball this season.
I might be in a minority here but Chris Erskine has ability. However I don’t think we ever really saw that at United. He is adored by Partick Thistle fans but the same cannot be said for his time at Tannadice. Famously booed by fans early in his United career he never really seemed to recover from that. It was probably due to his playing style that we never really got much from Erskine. He is a slower type of attacking midfielder and under McNamara we were playing such quick attacking football that he maybe never suited that pace of game. It was also the case that he lacked any physical presence to make an impact when needed.
Another player who would fall into the mentally weak category he, like many others, was badly exposed once we were in real difficulty.
Erskine is currently back at Partick Thistle.
Nobody could ever accuse Ryan McGowan of not having the heart for the fight. He impressed United fans during his spell at the club for his very committed style of play (even if it was highly reckless at times). A lunging tackler and someone who was always keen to put the boot in he was probably what we needed but we didn’t have enough of it throughout the squad and at the club.
McGowan was certainly not a ‘great’ player but at a time when we were inundated with mercenaries and fly-by-night also-rans he at least had a bit of bottle.
Unfortunately we lost McGowan in the January of our relegation year as he moved to China for reportedly £350,000. After some time in the Chinese Leagues he moved to the United Arab Emirates. In January 2018 he returned to the UK with Bradford City. McGowan is now on-loan at Dundee FC until the end of the season.
The local lad that benefitted massively from being part of the same squad as some of his more talented contemporaries. Dow always looked like he was about to show flashes of promise but my own personal view on him as a player was that he always looked a yard off the pace and never quite as gifted as others who were of a similar age in the United squad.
Making nearly 100 appearances for United is quite impressive but he was released after our relegation and moved to Dingwall to play for Ross County. Recently he has been on the move again with a surprise loan deal to Peterhead. This deal has now been made permanent.
Another dip into the Queens Park talent pool did not bless us with another Andy Robertson-esque success story. With Aidan Connolly we probably had a reason for signing him given he did have decent feet and was a committed player despite his size. Unfortunately he never really developed beyond a fringe player who once every so often would provide us with a decent moment of skill.
Connolly moved to Raith Rovers and then York to follow Jackie McNamara. He made a go of things down south but returned to Scotland this summer to sign for Dunfermline Athletic. Since leaving United he has also managed to grow a wee beard.
Given some of the absolute garbage in this list I think it time I actually try to stick up for a player. I’m not going to say that Bilate was great but I always felt there was something about him that could have made him a decent player for us if he managed to stay fit. His biggest issue was most definitely his injury record and he was limited to just 8 starts and 10 substitute appearances over roughly 18 months.
What we did get from Bilate was one of the best debut goals I’ve ever seen at Tannadice…
His departure from Tannadice was less than pleasant and he accused the United medical staff of substandard medical treatment. Apparently he felt that we didn’t look after him well enough (this was apart from paying him £2000 a week).
Then Mario committed the ultimate sin, he slagged of our wonderful city. He called Dundee “drab and gloomy”. You know what Mario? I take it all back. Your debut goal against Motherwell was a fluke and the wee bit about you potentially being a decent player was a lie.
If anyone cares Bilate now plays for RKC Waalwijk in the Dutch second tier.
A goalkeeper with literally no redeeming features. He was small, weak in the box, quiet, parried everything that came his way and was guilty of more than a handful of errors that led directly to us conceding.
It really is astonishing (or maybe not) that the club felt he and Zwick were going to be good enough to challenge in the Premiership. We also clearly didn’t scout Szromnik and actually paid real money for him (there’s a shock).
Szromnik is back in Poland and is still playing football. He is with Odra Opole in the Polish version of the Championship.
A very, very short goalkeeper who seemed to be with us for a fairly lengthy spell despite never being close to the first team. He was released at the end of the 2015/16 season and, after spells with Forfar and Cowdenbeath, he is currently unattached.
A lunatic of the highest order who was released from the club after picking up the ball during a match and then walking off.
When Gunning first played for United he was a good defender who many welcomed back when he arrived midway through our relegation season. It ended in chaos and given how he left the club he doesn’t deserve anything else written about him.
Currently at Forest Green Rovers.
A prospect that seemed to be at the club for ages but never really did much. My only real memory of Spark was seeing him get sent off in the ‘Wee Derby’ for a horrific challenge, only for him to start crying as he went down the tunnel. It was at Gayfield so you could hear every one of his tear-stained swear words as he went off.
Currently playing for his local side Brechin City.
Signed because he belonged to Darren Jackson’s agency. People who don’t follow United always wonder what went wrong but signings like this can point them in the right direction. McNamara and his cronies destroyed our youth system and then filled it with players like this to line their own pockets.
Lockheed is unattached.
Before we speak about Sideshow Bob let’s take a look at a picture that indicates the moment we all knew things were not going to end well…
I mean seriously, just look at this picture. Look at it. Jackie McNamara with a smile that shouts “I’ve completely dismantled your club and it will take years for you to recover” alongside Aaron “the accidental footballer” Kuhl, Billy “Just put me one on one with the keeper and I’ll do the rest” McKay and Adam “I’m so forgettable that sometimes even my own family don’t remember I exist” Taggart.
Getting back to Kuhl I suppose I need to provide an update on his whereabouts. As far as I can see he is not involved in football at the moment and that, in part, is due to him having some quite serious injury problems. He left United to return to Reading but failed to make any sort of impact despite signing a contract extension. Currently he is unattached.
On paper the signing of McKay should have been a useful one and to be fair to him he did look very bright in his early few games for us. He featured in most of our games during the relegation campaign but despite scoring a few goals from the penalty spot he didn’t ever look like the natural goalscorer we needed.
McKay is with Ross County and his greatest claim to fame is that he has now been involved in multiple relegations over the last few years (Wigan, United, Inverness and Ross County). Well done Billy!
………….<insert something, anything here>………..
I really don’t know what to say.
After leaving Tannadice, Adam Taggart has had a reasonably successful spell back in his home country of Australia. Initially with Perth Glory he is now at Brisbane Roar.
Essentially Nadir Ciftci’s replacement, Bodul was supposedly the physical, technically gifted striker that would allow us to continue with a Ciftci type player in the attacking area of our team. This did not happen.
Bodul just wasn’t up to it and YET AGAIN we signed someone based on probably very little actual scouting and we handed him a two-year contract that was probably worth more than Bilate’s apparent £2000 a week. People often ask where all our money went but when you are dishing out contracts of such high value like confetti then it all adds up.
We got rid of Bodul at the end of the 2015/16 season. He scored zero goals for us. Cheers Jackie.
Bodul is still playing and is currently in Russia with top-flight Enisey Krasnoyarsk.
Florent Sinama Pongolle
Genuinely what am I meant to say here? Something about him winning the Champions League with Liverpool or that he once moved to Atletico Madrid for £8million?
An absolute waste of space and YET ANOTHER signing that probably cost the club a small fortune. Although did he? Rumours at the time suggested that we were either paying him loads of money or hardly anything. Either way he made a grand total of four appearances for United and made no impact whatsoever.
After departing Tannadice the next logical step for Pongolle was to boost his pension pot by moving to Thailand. He is still there and is still registered with Chainat Hornbill FC.
An utterly forgettable player and someone who I can barely even remember. I’ll be honest, I’m losing the will to live writing this list given the amount of absolute dross that featured for us during this campaign.
Riski is currently at HJK Helsinki in Finland but really, who actually cares?
Signed as a battering ram type striker who was a favourite of Mixu Paatelainen. He was pretty rubbish and much like others on this list he was never going to be the answer to our problems. After we were relegated he was, if I remember correctly, linked with us a few times but thankfully nothing ever materialised and he was last seen in Thailand where he played for FLC Thanh Hoa. As far as I can see he left his last club in July and he is unattached.
Much like other youngster in this post Smith seemed to be at the club for years. After bobbing about the lower leagues for a few seasons he only ever really made a go of it at his last club Elgin City. He is currently with junior side Broughty Athletic.
Jordan Moore’s story is well documented and on a personal level it is a shame that he is lumbered into a list with some of these names given the difficulties and challenges he faced. His story is both very sad but also quite inspirational. After being diagnosed with skin cancer in 2014 the journey that Moore had to take was a long and difficult one but one that he handled with great positivity and passion.
Unfortunately for Moore his football career was always going to take a back seat and it meant that despite being supported by United the decision was made in January 2015 to release him.
In recent times Moore has tried his luck abroad but is back in Scotland. As far as I can tell he is currently unattached but has possibly/probably retired.
Someone the club had reasonably high hopes for given his physical stature and athleticism. He failed to make any sort of breakthrough and the young striker left the club at the same time as Jordan Moore.
Unbelievably Adeyemo signed for Watford after leaving us but did not progress and he was released after a year. Somehow he has ended up in Norway playing for fourth division side Valdres FK. He was recently on trial at Falkirk.
Maybe someone who deserved more of an opportunity at Tannadice? Possibly. When you look at some of the goalkeepers we’ve used in the last few seasons it is surprising that McCallum wasn’t given more of a chance to prove himself and if I was to compare him to either Szromnik or Zwick would I say that he was any worse than either of those two?
McCallum has been at Forfar Athletic since July 2017.
Thankfully we are near the end of this list and up next is yet another waste of space who probably pocketed thousands upon thousands of pounds during his few months in Dundee. What Demel could have brought to the team was quickly ruined when we all realised that he turned slower than an oil tanker and had a battery life of about 20 minutes before he was absolutely exhausted. This was apparent to everyone but unbelievably we actually used him as a right wing-back on occasion.
What we did provide Guy Demel with was a nice little wedge to keep for a rainy day. He retired from football last year after brief stints with a couple of teams in France.
A reasonable fullback, Knoyle was probably seen as one of the few positive signings during the 15/16 season. He only joined in the January of that season and was limited to just a few appearances but he always looked like he would develop into a decent player. Given the circumstances it was always going to be difficult for a loan signing to make much of an impact but for him personally the experience was probably something that could have helped his development given the difficult circumstances at the club.
After returning to West Ham after his loan spell he briefly played for Wigan before being released by his parent club. He is currently at Swindon Town and looks like he is a regular in their team. At 22 he still has plenty time to develop.
Writing this list made me very angry. I look back at these players and shudder to think what was going on at the club when we were making these signings and paying these wages. Out of this list who can genuinely claim to have given their all to United and contributed positively to the team? Three? Four? Five? Certainly not many.
Thankfully we look like we are now maybe beginning to leave all of this behind but it has been three years of trying to right the wrongs and implement changes that mean we don’t make the same mistakes again. I cannot say for sure how much some of the high-earners were on at that time but if you use Bilate as a benchmark and then add Demel, Kawashima, Bodul et al then you are talking about obscene amounts of money for chasing something that wasn’t there to be won.
My own view, and it would take longer than a closing paragraph to explain, is that once Levein and Houston left the club we started to slowly dismantle everything positive we had built. Starting with McNamara and ending with our relegation we ruined all the good in the club. McKinnon made a fist of things and was a decent fit in terms of trying to re-build a bit of the ‘United’ spirit but his failings as a manager meant we had to start again with Laszlo. In some ways Laszlo tried to do what Levein did and re-structure things that badly needed looking at. Unfortunately he was a raving lunatic when it came to being an actual manager. Now it looks like we might be heading back to some kind of stability and some kind of long-term plan. Fingers crossed that 2015/16 is now behind us.